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Chapter 7

PSYCH211 Chapter Notes - Chapter 7: Thermostat, 18 Months, Information Processing Theory

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Mathieu Le Corre

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Chapter 7 Notes
Setting the Stage: Piaget’s Theory
Basic Principles of Piaget’s Theory
Assimilation new experiences are readily incorporated into a child’s existing theories
Accommodation when a child’s theories are modified based on experience
Equilibration when disequilibrium occurs, children reorganize their theories to return to a
state of equilibrium
Cognitive development driven by equilibration results in formation of mental structures called
o Shemas are not static (do not stay the same); they are active (continually changing and
These revolutionary changes in thought occurs 3 times over the lifespan: 2, 7 and 11 years old
o Divides cognitive development into 4 stages:
1. Sensorimotor stage (birth - 2) - infancy
2. Preoperational stage (2 - 6) preschool and early elementary school
3. Concrete operational stage (7 - 11) middle and late elementary school
4. Formal operational stage (11+) adolescence and adulthood
ALL children go through these stages (in order); no one can skip stages (although some are
faster than others)
Stages of Cognitive Development
Sensorimotor stage infant progresses from simple reflex actions to symbolic processing
o Substage 1: basic reflexes (birth 1 month)
o Substage 2: primary circular reactions (1 4 months)
Infant accidentally produces some pleasing event and then tries to recreate it
Ex. sucking thumb
o Substage 3: secondary circular reactions (4 8 months)
Infant accidentally discovers repeated actions that involve an object
o Substage 4: intentional behaviour (8 12 months)
The means of an activity are distinct from the ends
Ex. “moving dad’s hand” shceme is the means to achieve the goal (end)
of “taking the toy”

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o Substage 5: tertiary circular reactions (12 18 months)
Infant repeats old actions with new objects, as if trying to understand why
different objects yield different outcomes (“little scientists”)
o Substage 6: using symbols (18 24 months)
infants begin to talk and gesture (these are symbols that mean something)
pretend play ex. sliding a block pretending it is a car
deferred imitation behaviour seen in another time and place is reproduced
Summary of 24 months of sensorimotor stage:
adapting to and exploring the environment
o starting off as a “thermostat” (only responding reflexively to stimuli), then being able to
intentionally interact with objects around them
understanding objects
o object permanence understanding that objects exist independently
infants lack object permanence until around 8 months
for infants, objects are ephemeral, existing when in sight and no longer existing
when out of sight
after 8 months, infants start to understand object permanence (ex. are able to
search for and find objects hidden under a blanket); still incomplete though
infants only have partial/incomplete knowledge of object permanence when
they pass the hidden object task but fail the “A-not-B” task
18 months infants have FULL understanding of object permanence!
Using symbols
o Once infants use symbols, they can begin to anticipate the consequences of actions
mentally instead of having to perform them
Preoperational Stage (2-7)
Child’s use of symbols to represent objects and events
Egocentrism young children’s difficulty in seeing the world from another’s viewpoint
o Preoperational children typically believe that others see the world both literally and
figuratively exactly as they do
o Ex. 3 mountains test (they think you see the same perspective they see of the mountain)

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o Some children in this age group can show non-egocentric thought, and some cannot
Centration narrowly focused thought (psychological equivalent of tunnel vision)
o Children concentrate on one aspect of a problem but totally ignore other equally
relevant aspects
o Piaget demonstrated this concept using the law of conservation
Children in this stage (preoperational) say that the taller glass has more liquid
(just because the liquid is higher)
This is because preoperational thinking is centered (they only look at height;
they don’t consider the width that compensates for the change in height level)
PROBLEM: egocentrism and centration
Concrete Operational Stage (7-11)
Distinctly more adult like, and less child-like
Children first use mental operations to solve problems and to reason
o Mental operations strategies and rules that make thinking more systematic/powerful
Ex. addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, etc. (arithmetic operations)
They can be reversed
Ex. 3 + 5 = 8, therefore, 8 - 5 = 3
Reversibility is partially why children are able to solve the conservation problem
o No more egocentrism or centration!
PROBLEM: thinking is limited to the tangible/real (the here and now); therefore, cannot think
abstractly or hypothetically about things that are not present
o Can only use past experience to solve conditionals
Formal Operational Stage (11 adult)
Children/adolescents apply mental operations to abstract entities
They can think hypothetically and reason deductively (freed from the concrete/real!)
Can solve problems by forming hypotheses (whereas concrete operational children dive right
into problems without formulating possibilities, etc.)
Deductive reasoning ability to draw appropriate conclusions from facts
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